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tv   Charlie Rose  Bloomberg  September 3, 2017 11:00am-12:00pm EDT

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♪ announcer: from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." charlie: welcome to the program. it is the end of summer and as we prepare for the next season, we bring you some of our favorite conversations here on "charlie rose." tonight, hamlet at the theater. then we have "a doll's house, part ii." then a look at the musical "dear evan henson." with the star and writer. >> the contemporary audience is less used to rhetoric and the idea of speaking verse.
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and i think it is important to honor the tradition of speaking verse and poetry and giving the audience poetry that has music to it. but i think it is important not to alienate the audience and declaim that poetry, but to find a way that it is also contemporary communication. >> the way the play articulates is it talks about how there is a voice inside of your head. that voice is you. but you have all of these other voices colliding in on it. the voices of your parents, your husband, the people in your community telling you what you should be doing. so, she has to stop hearing those voices of other people and hear, really, if i am left to myself, what do i want for myself? >> one of the most effective things about the show is first sort of 12 or 15 minutes, you meet evan. you see him give his first monologue and sing his first song, you get an idea of who this kid is and how deep in a
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hole he is, and how in need of some sort of savior he is. you really understand why he falls into this light. ♪ charlie: william shakespeare's "hamlet" is one of the best-known plays in history. a new production is now running at the public theater. it stars oscar isaac and was directed by sam gold. they first conceived of the project when they were students at juilliard. the production will run until september 3. i'm pleased to have oscar isaac and sam gold back at this table. welcome. >> thank you. thank you for having us. charlie: how did you guys at juilliard say one day, let's do "hamlet" together? >> by doing it at school, we decided to do the -- sam was there as a directing student. i was there as an acting student. we did all of the "hamlet" and "rosencrantz and guildenstern" scenes together. i think it was part of your course, right?
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>> i was studying shakespeare and wanted to work on "hamlet." it's not -- everybody basically wants to do this play. it was not a strange idea to want to do "hamlet." it is the best play ever and everyone wants to get their hands on it. i grabbed oscar from his actor training and said on your breaks, will you do "hamlet" with me? we'll just do the r&g scenes. charlie: is that what they are called? "the r&g scenes"? >> yeah, usually you tackle the nunnery seen or the closet scene or one of these big meals. i thought it would be fun to start with these friendships scenes. also, we were students and friends. it seemed kind of appropriate for the vibe at juilliard. oscar: we did that at school. after we graduated, we kept in touch and were always talking about wanting to do shakespeare. we finally were able to get some time. it took about two years of really trying to find a window where we could both have the time to put the play up. we finally did.
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that was an almost 15 year process. sam: 10 years of talking about doing it, and a couple of years of actually putting it together. charlie: what makes it is great as it is? sam: it is a bottomless play. you can look at it from a million points of view and each one of them feels like an entire universe. you think, someone else has this other idea about the play when they open up that door. it is another endless -- the term "poem unlimited" is a shakespeare term. charlie: "poem unlimited." sam: it jus keeps going. >> it is a hall of mirrors. it has the ambiguity of religious text. a line is crafted in such a way that it feels like it has infinite meaning. one of the funny things sam would say to any question an actor would ask is the opposite is always true.
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any answer he gives them -- sam: the most frustrating play in the world to direct because you can never get to a choice. where you are like, this is right. you choose something and someone can always say, wouldn't the opposite also work? and it does. it is like directing in quicksand. you are trying to lay some groundwork and get some ideas settled. you want things to have a structure, and you want it to be functioning. but every time you get somewhere, you keep digging and digging. you are like digging into quicksand. charlie: few people do the entire text. kenneth branagh did, i think, once. sam: yeah, he did. charlie: you have four hours. sam: it is three hours and 45 minutes, but we have cut quite a bit. i go slow. i have a hard time making it go by real fast.
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charlie: what was the vision you presented to oscar of what you wanted to do? what kind of story? how did you want to make it contemporary and at the same time bare? sam: the great thing is it came from us and our friendship and us talking about the play over so many years. it was never like, here is my idea. we started miles and miles from where we ended up. it was what was inspiring us, what was moving us, how we were seeing our lives and ourselves reflected in the play. when it came time to actually go into production, it was what was on both of our minds. i think what we were both really interested in at the time we started getting into rehearsals was the death of the father. the play starts with the death of hamlet's father and about his grief and mourning process and the stages of grief he is going through. the idea of a man who has lost his father and the grief sending him into madness was something i think both of us could really see the play entirely through that lens and do it quite well. charlie: i think you have spoken to the point that your mother
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was dying and you actually read from "hamlet," long passages. and you were informed by that experience in terms of how you wanted to own the part. oscar: we had already decided and figured out when we were going to do the play. we were going to start rehearsals in may. november of last year is when my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. it happened very quickly, her
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decline in health. i was able to be with her. at the same time, i was already preparing for this. her favorite thing in the world was to see me do shakespeare. she loved it. she came to see me at school when i did "romeo and juliet." she loved it so much. and so, when i was sitting with her first at home and then in the hospital, i would read it to her. and as i was memorizing it i ended up doing the soliloquys, and i ended up doing almost the whole play for her. i guess when i say again, like the religious text, there are things in it that feel like parables.
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particularly, a meditation on letting go and grief and death. and so, it was very comforting i know, for me and for her too. there was this one section i read to her about the readiness is all. "if it be not now, yet it will come." she was very moved by that. i thought that was amazing. as it got worse, in february she passed. she never wanted a funeral. she did not want any of that and so we did not do that. we just kind of as a family, we our own little thing to say goodbye. my sister came to see the show. she said it feels like the version of a funeral she would have wanted, to have the space to grieve and tell that story about losing someone you love so much and having this beautiful architecture and beautiful framework and communion with everyone else to tell it. charlie: this guy came with a sheer command of elizabethan -- sam: yeah. oscar, it is a kind of magic trick where he knows the play inside and out and knows what each word means and how to use each word so well that he can do it as if it is contemporary conversation. it is so clear in his mind. it is like when you learn a foreign language and you get to the point where you are thinking in the language and not thinking in english anymore. that is how he has gotten with the part.
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he brings the text alive in a way that is musically very, very beautiful but also extremely easy to understand and follow. charlie: a lot of people have spoken of that. in terms of the audience -- and i think audience members have spoken to that as well. it is more compelling for them because they understand it better. sam: i think a contemporary audience is a lot less used to rhetoric and the idea of speaking verse. i think it is really important to honor the tradition of speaking verse and poetry and giving the audience poetry which has music to it. but i think it is important not to alienate the audience and to
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claim that poetry, but to find a way that is also contemporary communication. i like to put a group of people together. you know, we have 299 people come every night. they are all in a room together. they are all, we are going to communicate some things about grief and suffering. we are all going to be in the room to experience it together. the communication has to make it to the audience. it cannot just be 400-year-old poetry. it has to be a contemporary conversation about something everybody in the audience is going through. oscar: that is something -- i mean -- hamlet says in the play twice, in two different spots, he says "the actors are the abstract and brief chroniclers of the time. and the job of the actor is to show the age and body of the time, its form and pressure." that is about now. the actor's role is to reflect to the audience how man is right now, in this moment of time. and so for us, it was very important to strip away as much artifice as we could and all that kind of representational stuff, trying to convince you we are in elsinore in denmark in medieval times and all those
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things and try to find a way to make it much more immediate and relatable. charlie: knowing the history of how many productions have been and continue to be everywhere every year, what did you want to make sure you did? sam: yeah, "hamlet" is a play that is like a little devil for a director. you know, you have to battle with it because everyone has tried to do their "hamlet." and it can really get in your head that you have to add something to that history. that is not a very healthy way to approach working on a play. and so, for me, i tried to not think about any of the productions i had seen and not think about its history at all. charlie: but can you? sam: yeah. i think because you are in a room --
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like what branaugh was saying, you respond to the people you are in the room with. i get in the room with a group of actors and this beautiful language and you see what happens. you focus on that. what do they have to offer this audience, in this moment, in this room we are all in? it kind of takes over. i tried hard to listen to that. i tried to strip away everything else. i did not come in with a concept. i was not trying to think about a fascist dictator or what is elsinore, what's rotten in denmark and try to make some kind of statement about it. i just said, we are in an empty room with an audience and these words. let's see what comes out of our
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time together. and the essential nature of that helped me from having to be in too much dialogue with concept or with history. charlie: do you have to assume hamlet went mad because of the killing of his father? oscar: no, not necessarily. i think madness, for me, understanding it through the lens of grief became much more relatable because grief feels like a form of madness. it feels like it can easily -- it is such a shock and such a trauma to lose someone you love so much. that, on the other side of that, it is a whole new existence. i think many people that have had to deal with that can feel how easily their mind can get away from them and change, and you see the world differently. and you -- a lot of pretense falls away. and so that, i feel like that in some ways in the play is a euphemism for the feeling of grief. charlie: some actors have said to me after doing "hamlet," they have to take off for a while. oscar: it is.
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it is very overwhelming. i think the interesting thing that has been so different, in a short, condensed amount of time, personally so many things happened. the passing of my mother, getting married, the birth of my son. that it is almost like my personal stake in doing "hamlet" and the play lowered. it did not mean everything to me. it felt more like release than something that needed to be proved or something i needed to prove. you know? and that is a wonderful state to
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be. as an actor, you always want your personal stakes to be low and the character's stakes to be really high because that gives you freedom. i think i was able to approach it, strangely in a kind of relaxed way, even doing all the work. but not overburdened with the personal cost. charlie: if you could sit down with the actors and say to them, this is what i want you to give me, what would you tell them? sam: yeah, truth. you know, to me, it is always about honesty and not pretending. like, having the thought. i think that is an amazing thing to watch, for an audience, is to watch an actor have a thought. so you see the thought that gives birth to the language of the play. you see that ignite in an actor's imagination. i think the audience gets so excited to see that and see someone not faking it, to see it actually happen. charlie: what is that about as an actor? oscar: i think as an actor with an audience, it is about synchronicity. you know, you are trying to
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synchronize with the other actors and the other people, so everyone is moving together almost unconsciously. i think when you do have the thoughts and when you are approaching it that honestly, your body unconsciously behaves in certain ways that the audience unconsciously picks up. and suddenly, we are all synchronized and moving at the same time together. i think that is when you really can feel things are alive. but i think it is about -- working on it, there is so much puzzle-solving we had to do. puzzle-solving like, why suddenly go into a soliloquy here? what is he trying to say? what do these long thoughts mean? charlie: thank you for coming. at the public theater until? oscar: september 4. charlie: september 4. you do not want to miss this. ♪
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♪ charlie: henrik ibsen's 1879 play "a doll's house" has long been considered a literary classic. the play ends with a once dutiful housewife walking out on her husband and three young children. the conclusion has inspired much debate and speculation over the last century and a half about what happened to her. a new follow-up flashes forward 15 years as nora returns to her old home to face her family for the first time. here is a look. >> here is another thing that bothers me. [laughter] >> you don't get angry. >> of course i do. >> maybe once. >> right now, i feel angry. >> i don't believe you are angry, that you are inside the feeling of feeling angry. i think you are just outside of it looking at it. like, oh, there is something. [laughter]
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>> you don't act! constipated. >> oh. charlie: "a doll's house: part two" is currently running at the john golden theatre. joining us now is the playwright lucas nate, director sam gold, and two of the stars, laurie metcalf and chris cooper. i am pleased to have all of them here at this table. welcome, welcome, welcome. lucas, let me begin with you. did you long think about what was going to happen here and over the aftermath of what happened to the character? lucas: yeah. i have always loved the play. i had seen it in many productions. the first thing that came to me was the title. i thought it was an audacious title for a play, "a doll's house, part two." it was not until i started writing it that i had to get serious and get past the joke of the title and really consider
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what does it mean to revisit the story. charlie: what do you think ibsen intended, for people to think about it and speculate about it? lucas: yeah. i think so. i think maybe in some ways what i did went against his intentions. i think he wanted that door to slam and us to consider the meaning of nora leaving. but, you know, over 100 years later, i think it is time to revisit that story and think about what does it mean that she left and what would it mean to return and what would even bring her back. charlie: was there much debate over how she turned out rather than how she might have turned out? laurie: much debate? i love the fact that lucas, when he had the idea of what nora's outcome would be, would it be positive or negative, because she had limited options with no skills and no education, the stigma of being a divorced woman in 1879.
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so people thought her options would be negative, so lucas wanted to go in the opposite direction. when i mean in a positive way, i mean successful way. she is a success. charlie: do people believe ibsen intended it as a feminist argument? lucas: i think the thing ibsen kept coming back to in all of his plays is, how are we not free and how could we be more free? is that really, truly even possible? he was a writer that seemed to yearn for people to be more free, to be less constricted by social norms, social judgment. and so, i think "a doll's house"
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is part of his consideration of it. one of the things he is thinking about in this play is the roles that men and women fall into playing or are forced to play. nora's action at the end is to break out of a certain expectation. charlie: but she comes back for legal reasons. she has to come back. laurie: she has to. yes. he has a very clever method that brings her back. and so what is fun for the audience is to find out what made her come back after 15 years of silence, no communication at all, and also what she has been doing in those 15 years. charlie: how does torvald see her? chris: how does torvald see her? as a completely changed person. he does not recognize her. charlie: is he surprised?
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chris: i think he is dumbfounded. charlie: he thought she would go off and drift into nothingness? chris: well, yeah. i mean, i think he was convinced she is still living, but her outcome, what has happened to her, i'm sure he has no idea. charlie: why does she leave? lucas: she has gotten into a spot where she is not sure what she wants and she has this strong suspicion the way she is walking through life is without any understanding of who she is as a person. so she thinks she needs to go find out who she is. charlie: her true identity? lucas: yeah. and i don't think -- she certainly does not think she can find that person if she stays in this house because she will just keep falling into patterns of behavior, so she needs literally a change of scenery. charlie: it begs an ageless question, who am i? lucas: yeah. the way the play articulates it, it talks about is a voice inside of your head. that voice is you, but you have all of these other voices colliding in on it. the voices of your parents, your husband, the people in your community telling you what you should be doing. and so, she has to stop hearing those voices of other people and hear really, if i am left to
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myself, what do i want for myself? charlie: is part of this play not only how they react to her but how she reacts to them? sam: it is an amazing surprise. right? the doors slammed in 1879. since then, we have all been wondering what happened to nora helmer. it is a fun exercise. for this play, you have all of this buildup and excitement about what is going to happen when she comes back. are people going to flip out? are they going to welcome her back with open arms? what is she here for? over the course of the play, you get the series of little meetings between her and the important people in her life where you get the surprise of finding out how they treat her and how she treats them. charlie: some have said about you that you are a minimalist in the design of your theater productions you are involved in. sam: i like to focus on the actors and the words and have the performers do all the work. when i read lucas' play, i thought of a boxing match. it has got a lot of rhetoric, a lot of argument in it. it just felt like making a production where it could be great actors kind of sparring. that was the basic idea. charlie: where would you rank ibsen? where do you rank this play? >> it is one of the most important plays in dramatic
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literature. one, because it was extremely shocking when it was written, to you know, give a woman the things you were talking to lucas about, to give a woman that inner voice, that decision to leave her family, to leave her children, and leave at the end of the play with the door slamming was an incredibly important moment in cultural history and theater history. it is a great role actors have played forever. you get to watch a great actor play one of the great roles. for this play, it is a chance to get to see someone play nora but also get to see someone in a completely new play. it borrows from the old play. but it really is its own play that gets to use some of the context of ibsen. but it is really lucas and and it is lucas' voice more than it has to do with ibsen. charlie: i guess the fascination is what manner of woman that had the strength to do this? what manner of human being would walk out at a time in which nobody ever left? laurie: oh, i know. it is a wonderful character. it is fascinating. even though i have not done the original "doll's house," i still haven't, really, i am playing nora helmer. but she has reinvented herself in the 15 years she has been away, so i felt i had a free pass to reinvent the character myself. because, it is the nora we see that all, everything that was bottled up in her in the original has come out and exploded. she has a confidence and sense of humor and aggressiveness about her.
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she is on a mission. and she is focused. it is thrilling to be able to play a character who is still very flawed in lucas' production, but you root for her because she is so passionate about her feelings. charlie: how is she flawed? laurie: oh, she is selfish. she can be petulant. she can be kind of petty and she can be impatient. i find within a character that still has the passion, i find those negative attributes sort of endearing. charlie: i guess the fascination is what manner of woman that had the strength to do this? what manner of human being would walk out at a time in which nobody ever left? laurie: oh, i know. it is a wonderful character. it is fascinating. even though i have not done the
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original "doll's house," i still haven't, really, i am playing nora helmer. but she has reinvented herself in the 15 years she has been away, so i felt i had a free pass to reinvent the character myself. because, it is the nora we see that all, everything that was bottled up in her in the original has come out and exploded. she has a confidence and sense of humor and aggressiveness about her. she is on a mission. and she is focused. it is thrilling to be able to play a character who is still very flawed in lucas' production, but you root for her because she is so passionate about her feelings. charlie: how is she flawed? laurie: oh, she is selfish. she can be petulant. she can be kind of petty and she can be impatient. i find within a character that still has the passion, i find those negative attributes sort of endearing. chris: this is also what has changed torvald. i mean, i think -- having had nora leave the house, we use the word torvald as "constipated." well, yes. he has, through these 15 years character that still has the passion, i find those negative attributes sort of endearing.
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chris: this is also what has changed torvald. i mean, i think -- i mean, i think -- having had nora leave the house, we use the word torvald as "constipated." well, yes. he has, through these 15 years and this shock he has taken, he is left to raise three kids with the help of annemarie, the housekeeper, housemaid. his life, i think, is so narrow. it is the bank and home. bank and home. he has no social life. he is horrified, very concerned about what society thinks of him.
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and this -- her leaving, i think, has just turned his world inside out. charlie: would she have wanted to come back anyway? would she be so curious about what happened to them? and secondly, i want them to see what has happened to me. >> i think that's absolutely true. it is never stated it explicitly in the text. but you can read between the lines there is a curiosity and a desire to see her daughter, but a resistance to it because she is worried it could open up some wound and it is better to let wounds heal. but yeah, and we also talk about the moment when she walks into the door. there's a little bit of a vibe of the person who's just been off to college and learned all these new things and wants to go home and show mom what they learned. that is sort of the fun of it. charlie: does the audience choose sides between torvald and nora? >> the hope is that they choose sides and then hear another side and flip a lot over the course
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of the evening, which is why i use that sports metaphor. hopefully you as an audience member feel every side of the argument over the course of the show. i think it is one of the things lucas did so well and what makes the show really fun. charlie: what is the engagement with her daughter? i did what i had to do, but i did it for myself? laurie: it is so funny that we are dealing with a marriage and divorce, and then along comes the emmy scene, and they have a little three-year-old, does not even remember her mother, they are now seen together. and they each have very different takes on marriage, which is surprising. but also, it has a lot to do with abandonment. emmy comes across as someone who has dealt with it well, but you see where and how she's been affected by it.
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charlie: nora's concerned about emmy's desire to live a more conventional life. laurie: mm-hmm. charlie: she is concerned about that? laurie she just wants her : daughter to have options. she sees in her daughter the same things that she fantasized about what a marriage would be at her daughter's age. to have options. charlie: but that is what feminism's about, to have options? laurie: yes, to have options, that is the best thing she can do to give to her daughter, as she explains, as she's having a second it is any and heading out -- second in tiffany and heading out the door to do more work on it. charlie: these are all modern problems. our obligations, responsibility. all that. >> this production takes place in the 1890's, but the writing style is extremely contemporary. the way that lucas makes the world is extremely contemporary. you feel like you can keep asking yourself over the course
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of the production come what -- production what about our , world is exactly like victorian norway and what is different? you keep getting to kind of bounce around between the two. charlie: how do you add that contemporary sense? necessity to the play? in terms of the staging of it. >> it was always clear to me to have very contemporary american performances. the voice of it, when i read it in writing, was not feel at all -- was not to feel at all period, norwegian, like some stodgy ibsen production, but to feel like i was doing a brand-new play in a very contemporary american vernacular and let the context, the sort of victorian content happen in the subject, and some beautiful victorian clothes helps. charlie: you have incorporated very contemporary sound and likecontemporary touches something as simple as a kleenex box. >> exactly.
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charlie: the point is to make it contemporary. >> i wanted people to see the contemporary world and think backwards instead of the other way around. charlie: did you want to sort of say as you started writing this, forgive me, mr. ibsen, but -- [laughter] >> i didn't feel apologetic with him. charlie: did you want to say, at long last you're going to have somebody answering the questions you raised? >> it felt like i was having a conversation with him. he's a playwriting mentor of mine. let me do a little bit of an homage to you as well. riff and do something new as well. bytarted writing the play finding a really bad translation of "the doll's house" online and went through it and streamlined it as much as possible. that was the way i was communing with ibsen. once i had gotten to the end, i
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was ready to just keep going. charlie: can you think of any other play ever written that you would like to do part two? [laughter] lucas: the problem is with the dramatic canon, most people die at the end. that eliminates a sequel. but no, i can't. i have stood on subway platforms wondering this question many times, and i think this is my only sequel. chris: these points of view of each individual on stage is so valid that an audience member who is of a certain belief, feel, has to listen to the argument. he will hear his side, and he will hear a whole other side, and he may hear a second, third,
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and fourth side, and i think it is phenomenal, amazing that the house is quiet. i'm surprised that there isn't more outspokenness from the house. you know what i mean? >> they are outspoken, and there are these big thunderous sections of laughter and big gasps and stuff, and suddenly it , on a dime, gets really really , quiet. >> also when a character drive because, like at a sporting event they applaud when , certain points are landed. every character gets a few. charlie: it seems to me to see this kind of play and all of its
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engagement and ideas and experiences is what theater is about, so congratulations on what you've done here. >> thank you. ♪
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which is why comcast business delivers consistent network performance and speed across all your locations. fast connections everywhere. that's how you outmaneuver. ♪ isrlie: "dear evan hansen"
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a hip new musical in new york. it follows a high school student with severe anxiety who gets caught up in a social media fueled movement after a fellow classmate commits suicide. "the new york times" writes that "star ben platt is giving a performance not likely to be bettered on broadway this season." it is nominated for nine tony awards, including best musical. here is a look. ♪ >> ♪ when you are falling in a forest and there's nobody around do you really crash or do even make a sound when you are falling in a forest and there's nobody around do you really even crash or do you even make a sound? did i even make a sound? did i even make a sound? [indistinct lyrics]
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>> ♪ can anybody hear -- is anybody waving? waving back at me? is anybody waving? waving? waving? whoa whoa ♪ ♪ [cheering] charlie: joining me now, ben actor nominated for best in a musical, and the writer steven levitt nominated for best , book of a musical. welcome. great to have you here. tell me about your character. who is evan hansen? ben: evan hansen is a lonely kid who is a teenagers in high school -- a teenager in high school. he has a lot of trouble connecting to other people. that is sort of heightened by the hyperconnectivity of social
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media and with young people, everything they do online is being instantaneously judged and looked at. he feels really under deep scrutiny which pulls him deeper , and deeper into himself and makes him retreat into more and he cannot find a place to belong and be heard and feel connected to anyone or anything. and through this rather terrible lie he tells sort of about this a kid whodship with has committed suicide, he comes very close in contact with this kid's family and learns how close it is to him -- important it is to be close in the long, and he starts to come out of his shell, all predicated on the fabrication. charlie: is it also a critique of social media? >> when we started working on this, we initially talked about it as more of a frontal critique on social media, more of a parody or satire.
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as the show has evolved, what we became interested in was exploring, yes, how social media does promote this kind of false idea of who we are. we are all kind of performing on there. charlie: and do we belong and all of that? >> yes. at the same time, there is something real that happens on there. there is a sense of belonging, a sense of connection people find so it is a double-edged sword. , charlie: when you thought about this and you guys wrote this, was it based on a headline in the newspaper you had seen or story? these things actually happen. >> absolutely. it was based originally on one of the composers in high school who had a classmate who died of , an accidental drug overdose. he was someone who is a real loner, kind of an outsider, no friends. in the wake of his death, all of his fellow students began clamoring to say, i was friends with him, or our lockers were close together. everyone wanted a part of that
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tragedy. he stored that away as a memory he found troubling but also very interesting, but in his own response to it in that he too kind of wanted to join in. when he went to college, he met justin paul, and they began working together. they discussed this strange story and they both saw echoes of that story in our generation and its response to 9/11. we all knew people that had written college essays about their place in 9/11. and then with social media, that kind of insertion of ourselves into tragedy seems to only escalate and get crazier and crazier until any kind of catastrophe in the world became a way to talk about themselves. and so, then, when the three of us began working together, that was really where we began. charlie: what was the average age of the three of you? >> the average age -- we were all, i believe, 27, maybe 28. no, that's not true.
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we have been working on this so long. we were like 26. we were really young. [laughter] >> we still are. charlie: is it a challenge for you you have got to make sure , you explore him and all he has done in the lies that he is telling, and at the same time making him a character people don't reject. >> certainly. from the beginning of development -- i came on board about three years ago -- that was always kind of the focus on my part and steve and i together making sure the audience always , understood at every turn why he was making decisions he was making. you were seeing it was all coming from a place of good intention and wanting to heal and help people. one of the most effective things about the show is in the first 10, 15 minutes when you get to meet evan and see him get his first monologue and sing his first song, you get an idea of how this kid is and how deep of a whole he is then and how in need of a savior he is. you really understand why he falls into this lie.
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charlie: is it a savior for him? >> on some level it does end up being a savior, it forces him to connect in a way he never really have, but there is a dark side to that, too, forcing them to face demons in terms of self-hatred. not liking you see in the mirror, but at the end of the day it starts a conversation for him, especially with his mother which is what we found the show has the ability to do is start conversations people are afraid to broach, especially everyday conversations. it really seems to just bust that door wide open. charlie: congratulations on the nominations. >> thank you very much. [laughter] charlie: as well. >> well, thank you so much. charlie: when you write the book, what does that mean? >> it means essentially that my responsibility is partly to structure things, to kind of come up with the roadmap, and then all the dialogue. and what it meant in this case because we had no source , material -- often you have a book or a movie -- was we came up together with the rudiments
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of the story and some characters, and then i went off and wrote the first act as though it were a play, and left spaces where the three of us had decided songs might go. i sent them that draft, and they looked at it and said, here where we thought there would be , a song, i think it comes earlier, so the scene needs to be shorter or longer. it is a lot of -- it is kind of building the skeleton. charlie: how do you explain this resonance that it has? other than great acting? [laughter] >> i think a couple things. i think it really accurately and without any filter or lens depicts the contemporary world and the way people are connected to each other these days and the way social media plays into that , and sort of doesn't make any sort of too harsh of a judgment on that, presenting at the way it is and make us confront how that affects us as human beings. the character has an incredible
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universality in terms of his isolation and loneliness and the deep desire to reach out and be reached out to. and i think that everyone who comes to the show kind of finds themselves somewhere in him. it is so beautifully written that he has this self-effacing humor and sings these songs, but i think people really see some of their humanity in him. charlie: this is what your mother told "the new york times." [laughter] >> always a reliable source. charlie: exactly. she said, "i contemplate his emotional well-being everyday. he is very mature, but is only 23. he should be out with friends and meeting people. i worry about how much time he spends alone." that's your mother. >> that's my mother. she called me to make sure i am not -- charlie: how proud can one mother be? >> she's the most wonderful human on the earth. we don't have to talk about that now because that will take the whole time. there is certainly a sacrifice involved with this piece because
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it is a very demanding role and something i take very seriously. to curate this and re-create it eight times a week and give that same sort of emotional intensity and make sure the audience is having identical experiences as much as possible, that requires a lot of me as far as sacrificing social life. my lifestyle gets really affected. but of course this is the kind , of piece that is so beautifully written that you want to give yourself to it and make those sacrifices because they don't come along all the time, especially in the musical theater, so so fully realized this way. charlie: you been working with the same actors for years? -- three years? >> yes. and that very first reading, four of the actors were already in it. charlie: hasn't caused you to -- has it caused you to change the writing at all? >> well, these actors have really helped shape this material, absolutely. especially ben with this character. i think part of the reason the show resonates so much is that ben's performance is so specific. the more specificity, the more
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universality. that paradox? ben and i have been able to have a kind of conversation where he will do something and then i will respond to it in the writing, and he responds in performance. that has been a real deep pleasure. >> one of the many things steven does brilliantly is finding things in ourselves in our performances and development that we are not even noticing we are doing, and then we find they flashed --utifully fleshed out in the writing, really taking advantage of the performers and what comes naturally and honestly to them. that's part of what makes the characters feel so beautifully honest. he will use the seeds of that to create a bigger idea. charlie: this could have come from bruce springsteen, but it could come from you. and i feel as long as i'm doing this role everything has to be in the service of that. i don't want there to be a civil performance where people leave thinking they did not get -- single performance with people thinking they did not get the best i could offer. i do not think there is anything genuine or powerful but does not take a toll. for now i am willing to pay that , toll whatever it may be. is there a toll?
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is it simply in the the endurance and in the requirements of singing that much and the demand on you? >> sure. the literal toll would be the physical and vocal demand and the sort of physical therapy and voice lessons, what have you. it also is sort of an emotional toll to go to such a dark place eight times a week and make it as real as possible. it is not always the easiest thing to do. particularly if it is an audience that is a little less responsive or a day where you are lower on energy. charlie: and you can feel that? >> i can. the responses beautiful by the end of the show every time, but i think it is just by virtue of anything from the weather to what has been going on in the world to whether the age of the people of the crowd, sometimes it takes them a little longer to get on the ride. and they are not maybe as vocal. charlie: what do you do if you sense that? >> i try not to push. the instinct is to go harder and
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try to win them, but if you lay back and let the show do its job and not try to slam on the acceleration, they come to you eventually. charlie: that's a very good way of putting it. this is the cast singing "you will be found." here it is. >> ♪ when you need a friend to carry you when you are broken on the ground you will be found let the sun bring you in you reach up and you rise again if you only look around you will be found you will be found you will be found you will be found ♪
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charlie: i asked the average age of the cast, where are you? you said somewhere in the middle because -- >> we've got five people in their early to mid-20's playing teenagers, and we have adults in their mid-40's. charlie: you never show him in therapy, do you? >> no. charlie why not? : >> i think we wanted to get to know evan with his mom, especially. we wanted that to be the way we get to know this character and the lens through which we see him. and, i don't know, therapy scenes tend to be boring to writers because they are so reductive in a way. that is sort of like writing an interview, where you have one character whose job is really to just say, and how does that make you feel? feel, whereas with his mom or his peers there is a level of unpredictability. charlie: and a higher level of engagement, too? >> absolutely. yes. charlie: it runs how long? >> indefinitely.
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until the end of the world. [laughter] charlie: does it leave you any time to do anything else? >> not really. i mean, we have monday's off. charlie: this is not a theme on my part. [laughter] >> we have monday's off we are , dark on monday. this is a really exciting time, and i love being in it. it is obviously a temporary thing, and i want to take it as it comes. so i'm happy to be doing it. charlie: because it has become such sensation here, are you getting advice from other people who have also conquered the new york musical stage? >> sure. we have a lot of and i get to see them afterwards, and they will offer their pieces that come, and i do see them afterwards and they will offer their pieces of advice. charlie: their congratulations? and then their -- >> the thing about the show's people really are very moved at the end and feel sort of really
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opened up. when i do get to interact with others, everyone is so open and ready to discuss and wanting to be open with me because they feel it we just had this shared emotional experience. that is kind of my favorite time to talk to people. but mostly it is just to really make self-care a priority and make sure i am taking care of me as a human being so me the actor -- me, the actor can continue to , do this stuff. charlie: here is evan singing with his girlfriend, "only after us." >> ♪ it will be us it will be us and only us and what came before won't count anymore you and me that's all we need it to be the rest of the world falls away and the rest of the world falls away ♪ charlie: congratulations. >> thank you very much. charlie: this is terrific. good to have you here. stephen yarbro -- stephen? thank you very much. ♪
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